SBD/6/Franchises

WILD RUMORS FUEL DAY AS BUCS SALE REACHES NEW HEIGHTS

     It was a wild day of rumors and denials along One Buccaneer
Place, as reports ranged from an impending sale to a number of
bidders, to an all out suspension of the sale for a year.  What
is known is that trustee Steve Story met in Baltimore with
Orioles Owner Peter Angelos in "an unannounced negotiating
session."  Angelos, who has been preparing a bid for several
weeks, said he is not sure if he will submit one today or wait
"until later," but added "We are working on it.  We're not
sitting here doing nothing" (Jon Morgan, Baltimore SUN, 1/6).
Story's meeting with Angelos came on the heels of a rumor that
"swept through"  Hillsborough County that Angelos had a
"handshake agreement" to buy the team for $217M and move it to
Baltimore.  Angelos denied that rumor.  That led to speculation
the trust would sell the team to the Tommy Shannon/Outback
Steakhouse group.  Hugh Culverhouse, Jr. flew to Tampa from Miami
also increased speculation that some deal "might be near."  Then,
ESPN reported that Yankees Owner George Steinbrenner would make
an offer of $164M to keep the team in Tampa. Steinbrenner's
response: "You're kidding, right?"  Late in the afternoon, the
trust announced that head coach Sam Wyche would continue as coach
for next season, raising speculation that, because no offer was
sufficient, the trust intended to take the team off the market.
Tommy Shannon, who reiterated that his group's offer to buy the
team was only good until Monday, added: "The Wyche announcement
would lead me to believe the trust may keep the team."  Bruce
Frey, a Chicago real-estate developer part of a Tampa group
interested in the team, said of the Wyche announcement: "I don't
understand it, unless they've determined to keep the team and
retain Wyche" (Rick Stroud, ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, 1/6).
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